Turkey, US agree on ceasefire in northeast Syria, Pence says

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Turkey has agreed to a five-day ceasefire in northeast Syria to allow for the withdrawal of Kurdish forces, US Vice President Mike Pence said on Thursday after talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Reuters reported.

“Today the United States and Turkey have agreed to a ceasefire in Syria,” Pence told a news conference after more than four hours of talks at the presidential palace in Ankara.

Pence had flown to Turkey to call for a halt in Turkey’s cross-border military operation, called Operation Peace Spring, under which Turkey aimed to clear Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighters from a 20-mile-deep “safe zone” along the border.

“The Turkish side will pause Operation Peace Spring in order to allow for the withdrawal of YPG forces from the safe zone for 120 hours,” Pence said.

“All military operations under Operation Peace Spring will be paused, and Operation Peace Spring will be halted entirely on completion of the withdrawal,” he said.

But Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu during a news conference said, “This is not a ceasefire.”

“We will pause the operation for 120 hours in order for the terrorists to leave,” Çavuşoğlu said. “We will only stop the operation if our conditions are met.”

Turkey launched its long-planned Operation Peace Spring on Oct. 9 aimed at taking out the Kurdish forces it sees as terrorists but which most of the West views as key partners in the fight against Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants. The Turkish military operation began days after a surprise and widely criticized White House announcement that US forces would withdraw from the region.

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